Written by attorney Jonathan C. Ginsberg

Why You Need an Elevator Speech for Your Social Security Disability Claim

I want to explain why you need an “elevator speech” for your Social Security disability case.

If you are not familiar with the term “elevator speech,” it comes from the world of job searching. Imagine that you are in need of a job and you find yourself in an elevator with the CEO of a company that would be a perfect fit for your skills and education. You have a 45 second elevator ride to introduce yourself to the CEO, tell him (or her) who you are, and how you would be the ideal candidate for a job at his company.

45 seconds is not a lot of time - you need to cut out the fluff and convince this busy CEO why you would be a benefit to his company.

You should use this same approach when you are communicating with Social Security and especially when you are testifying to a judge. They have something you want - the power to award you life changing disability benefits. So it stands to reason that you need to make the claims adjudicator or the judge’s life easy by demonstrating how you fit SSA’s definition of disability.

Fortunately, you don’t have to guess about what they need - Social Security tells us in clear terms that in order to qualify for disability you have to prove that you are unable to reliably perform the duties of even a simple, entry-level job because of a medically determinable condition. You also have to prove that your job limiting condition has lasted or is expected to law at least 12 consecutive months or result in death.

Therefore, if you spend time discussing anything other than how your medical condition impacts your capacity for work, you are wasting your time and you are wasting the adjudicator’s or the judge’s time. Further, if you don’t get to the point quickly - i.e., 45 seconds or a minute - the adjudicator or judge will most likely conclude that you don’t meet SSA’s definition and they will simply stamp “denied” on your file and move on to the next claim.

I have tried hundreds of disability cases and in just about every hearing the judge will ask my client the following question “why do you believe that you are unable to work?” The last thing you want to do is respond with 10 minutes of testimony about a car accident from 25 years ago or a strange swelling of undiagnosed cause on your elbow that started 2 weeks ago.

Back in August, 2015 I released a video entitled “Why I Will be Rude to You at Your Hearing” ( in which I explained how I will stop a rambling client by interrupting and redirecting any hearing testimony that is getting off track. As I said in this video, I do this not to be rude, but to win cases.

Obviously, you will want to practice with your lawyer how to best answer the “why do you believe that you are unable to work” question. I hope you can see from these examples I discuss in this video why the most effective answers provide a history of a long term problem, and focus on how your medical or mental health issue would likely impact you at a job. Further, the better answers suggest that you have been compliant with your doctor’s treatment, and that you have not given up and that you are fighting the idea of being labeled as disabled.

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